Bush Ties The Anchor Around Their Necks
It's hard to see any consistency in today's announcement by the White House that it was committing the United States to a permanent presence in Iraq. Bush and Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki made the announcement that they had signed an agreement to negotiate a bilateral relationship governing our role in Iraq by next July, thereby allowing Bush to dictate to the country and his successor our commitment to Iraq on his way out the door. Bush is trying to take Iraq off the table in the presidential campaign, to cement his legacy and to help the GOP.
“What U.S. troops are doing, how many troops are required to do that, are bases required, which partners will join them — all these things are on the negotiating table,” said Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, President Bush’s adviser on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It’s not a treaty, but it’s rather a set of principles from which to begin formal negotiations,” Lute added. “Think of today’s agreement as setting the agenda for the formal bilateral negotiations.”
Do they think they are being clever by not calling it a treaty, so that Congress has no say in the matter? Congress still has to fund it, but the White House is very confident that the Democrats would not cut funding for Bush's commitment in the midst of the 2008 campaign, meaning the White House planned to politicize this for maximum effect all along. The Surge was simply the means to drag it out to this timeframe.
And what did Bush attempt to do today? He wants to commit the United States to a permannent presence of at least 50,000 troops in multiple bases, and preferential American access to Iraqi oil.
Two senior Iraqi officials familiar with the issue say Iraq’s government will embrace a long-term U.S. troop presence in return for U.S. security guarantees as part of a strategic partnership. The two officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the subject is sensitive, said U.S. military and diplomatic representatives appeared generally favorable, subject to negotiations on the details, which include preferential treatment for American investments.
Preferential treatment for U.S. investors could provide a huge windfall if Iraq can achieve enough stability to exploit its vast oil resources. Such a deal would also enable the United States to maintain leverage against Iranian expansion at a time of growing fears about Tehran’s nuclear aspirations.
Given the tenuous nature of al-Maliki's support from his own Shiite parties, does anyone really think that he can commit his country to a permanent American military presence and the looting of Iraq's oil revenues by American firms?
And if the Pentagon wants to shift the focus away from Petraeus and back to Bush, do they really want to get sucked next year into defending an unpopular war and a permanent presence inside Iraq in the midst of a presidential campaign?
The Pentagon wants the focus back on Bush, and doesn’t want to be associated with an unpopular war any longer than it has to. The Shiites will not support a prime minister who accepts a permanent American occupation and the fleecing of their oil revenues. And yet Bush does this to cement his demands into place because he knows the Democrats would never shut off the funding in the middle of the 2008 election season.
Bush just handed the Democrats a huge issue for 2008. Make the campaign a referendum on the fiscal and military cost of stationing 50,000 troops on permanent bases in Iraq; and force the GOP's candidates defend this against the 70% of the electorate who want us out in 12-18 months.